In a Nutshell
- Spain’s Long-Term Climate Strategy (ELP 2050) seeks to reduce emissions by 90% (relative to 1990 emissions) by 2050, with natural carbon sinks absorbing the remainder. This target is expected to be achieved through extensive reforestation, wetland restoration and agroforestry systems.
- Various initiatives such as the Carbon Fund FES-CO2, Spain’s National Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan, the LIFE Agromitiga project, and research conducted by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) are in place to promote CO2 reduction, carbon sequestration and innovative carbon capture technologies.
- Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) deployment could
Role for carbon removal in national climate policy
The country’s (ELP 2050) builds upon Spain’s integrated (NECP) and extends it to 2050. It requires that emissions be reduced by 90% (relative to 1990 emissions) and that natural carbon sinks counter-balance remaining emissions to achieve net zero (at least 37 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 per year by 2050). Measures outlined in the Strategy aim to meet the climate neutrality scenario through a reforestation rate of 20,000 hectares/year until 2050, which would increase absorption by 7 MtCO2e a year. Additionally, the strategy foresees a restoration of 50,000 hectares of wetlands, which will add another projected 1 MtCO2e per year to the sink capacity. Agroforestry systems and meadow regeneration further augment the sink capacity by 0.5 MtCO2e per year. Although not included in the calculations due to a lack of a robust methodology, the Strategy also recognises the potential of improving the organic content of soils in agroforestry systems to enhance carbon sequestration. It goes on to note the need for incentives to increase organic content of depleted agricultural soils in the country.
The Strategic Projects for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) for Industrial Decarbonisation is linked to Spain’s Recovery and Resilience Plan and mentions carbon removals in the context of applying BECCS. It particularly mentions the application of biomass as a material input in the production processes of various goods. The strategy states that this process could significantly reduce net emissions by counterbalancing released CO2 emissions with those captured from the atmosphere during the growth phase of the biomass. Pairing this approach with carbon capture technologies to capture and permanently store CO2 released from biomass combustion makes a net negative emissions scenario achievable.
Spain’s draft updated NECP outlines plans to harness the potential for GHG removals through natural sinks. This updated NECP confirms the present Spanish strategy of balancing the remaining 10% of emissions in 2050.
Relevant legal frameworks
Spain’s 2021 Climate Law (Ley 7/2021 de cambio climático y transición energética) designates a Net Zero target by 2050. Article 26 of this Law recommends that public entities incentivise citizens and private actors to increase the capacity of capturing CO2 in ecosystem carbon sinks, with emphasis largely on actors in the LULUCF sector.
The EU created the Recovery and Resilience Plan as a funding relief plan following COVID-19. The Spanish plan includes measures that have the potential to shape the future role of carbon dioxide removals (CDR) in the country in the following ways: industrial decarbonisation, informing research priorities and allocating funding for measures to protect Spanish ecosystems.
Support for R&D and Innovation
The FES-CO2, also known as the Carbon Fund, is a public fund created in Spain under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol to help achieve the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions targets. Managed by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, the fund supports projects that help to reduce CO2 emissions in Spain. In 2021, the fund provided €30 million to projects reducing CO2 emissions.
Spain’s National Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan introduces several eco-schemes with the aim of increasing carbon sink capacity as well as improving biodiversity in both humid and Mediterranean grassland regions. The combined annual financial allocation for these schemes is over 218 million euros.
The Project LIFE Agromitiga, financed by the EU LIFE Program, aims to develop a low-carbon farming system. The project seeks to increase carbon storage in agricultural soils through innovative techniques. It is planned to be achieved through ‘climate-smart’ farming practices, based on three basic principles: the non-disturbance of the soil, soil coverage by plant residues on at least 30% of its surface area and crop rotation. The project actively promotes these practices in Spain and other Mediterranean countries including Portugal, Greece, and Italy.
The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) developed patents for CO2 carbonation-calcination at the La Pereda pilot plant. A variant of this process was developed in parallel at a 400 kW pilot plant at the La Robla thermal power plant, which could be used for BECCS processes.
The Council has also coordinated a project funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation funding program. The project focuses on developing the geochemical carbon dioxide removal potential of Spain through enhanced weathering and carbonation strategies for mine wastes to sequester more CO2.
The Innovation Fund’s latest call for large-scale projects selected to fund the Green Meiga project, which provides an integrated approach to e-methanol production through direct air capture in an advanced CO2 capture system.
On the horizon
There is a potential opportunity for enhanced weathering in Spain as demonstrated by a recent study funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MCIN). The National Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan makes mention of improving the CO2 uptake of agricultural soils, providing an opportunity for enhanced weathering (EW) to play a role.
There is potential for developing BECCS in Spain since biogas features prominently in Spain’s Long-Term Strategy. Biogas is 60% CH4 and 40% CO2 on a molar basis. This composition allows existing and emerging gas separation technologies to upgrade biogas to biomethane and separate the CO2 stream for carbon capture and storage. Capturing and storing this CO2 stream could play a role in addressing emissions from sectors using biomethane as an energy source.
- Net zero target: 2050
- Net Negative Target:
- First interim target: 2030
- Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
- GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
- Separate target for emission reduction and removals: No
- Comprehensive CDR Target: no
- CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
- CDR Target for Novel Removals: no
- Historical emissions: No
- Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting
Public consultations and upcoming policies
Public consultation on the draft updated NECP – until 4 September 2023
- Ministry of Ecological Transition (MITECO)
- The Instituto Geológico y Minero de España (Spanish Geological Survey) (IGME)
- Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas). The Council leads in patent applications and licenses technologies for market exploitation and operates 120 centres throughout Spain.
- The Carbon Science and Technology Institute (INCAR)